By Jesse Lima, special to the Las Vegas Bowl
The 2015 Rossi T. Ralenkotter Most Valuable Player Award went to Utah defensive back Tevin Carter. Not quarterback Travis Wilson (who won it last year here), not halfback Joe Williams, not even a receiver, but yes, the senior out of Los Angeles, California.
How rare is it for a defensive player to be named MVP of the game? Carter is only the second, joining Nevada linebacker Mike Crawford from the Wolf Pack’s 1996 win over Ball State.
For the second consecutive year, Utah took care of business in Las Vegas with a 35-28 victory over BYU in the 24th edition of the game. Playing in front of the second biggest crowd in bowl history, the Utes jumped out to a huge 35-0 lead before the clock struck zeros in the first quarter. Carter had two interceptions in the blowout first quarter, including one returned to the BYU one-yard line and the other a 28-yard return for a touchdown to make the score 14-0 within the first five minutes of the game.
“I’ve had some hard times catching the ball in the past,” Carter said in the postgame press conference. “The first interception, Reginald Porter made a great play on the ball and the second one Jason Fanaika made a play on the ball as well, so all the credit goes to my teammates.”
Carter came into the contest fifth on the team in tackles with 56 in 11 starts at strong safety.
“Tevin is a tough and talented player that has a lot of football left ahead of him,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He kept hanging in there and all he did is work hard. It was tremendous to see him play the way he did today and come away with the Most Valuable Player trophy.”
Some believed that the fans could see a deja vú scenario in the Most Valuable Player voting after the game with senior QB Travis Wilson winning the award last year and being in the running this year. Travis Wilson did not put up the stats but helped the Utes play conservative towards the end of the game to help fend off what the BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall called “a remarkable comeback.”
Williams also had a case to win the Most Valuable Player Award with two rushing touchdowns and two big first downs to seal the win in the late minutes.
“This game was like the Oregon game on steroids,” Whittingham said. “I was stunned that we jumped out to such a large start but we earned those points by playing such great defense. When all’s said and done, it was a team victory.”